Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2016 / 04:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For years, the American Medical Association has held a strong stance against measures promoting physician-assisted suicide. But that could change. Recently, the American Medical Association announced that it is reconsidering its position, prompting groups such as the Society of Catholic Social Scientists to speak out, urging that they maintain a firm “no” to “intentionally induced deaths.”
“Our organization strongly urges you not to change your policy,” stated an Oct. 31 letter from Society of Catholic Social Scientists president, Dr. Stephen M. Krason. “Your organization has enormous influence in the shaping of public policy concerning health care and medical issues and a change in your position would almost certainly give momentum to the effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide in the U.S.”
Over the past few years, a handful of states have legalized physician-assisted suicide. The state of Colorado will vote on the measure this November. The assisted suicide movement gained traction with the controversial case of Brittany Maynard, a brain cancer patient who relocated to Oregon in 2014 to pursue physician-assisted suicide. Since its popularization, stories have surfaced about health-insurance companies denying medical treatment to the terminally ill, but instead insuring lethal pills that would end the patient’s life.
The Society of Catholic Social Scientists is among many groups advocating against physician-assisted suicide. Opponents also include disability rights advocates, who have called the measure “ignorant,” and Catholic leaders including Pope Francis, who said that assisted suicide is “false compassion.”
Among the many dangers listed by the Society of Catholic Social Scientists is the fine line of transforming “a healing profession into a killing profession,” and driving “a wedge between physicians and their patients, causing people to deeply distrust their physicians who they will not be sure will be faithful to an ethic to help them when they are seriously ill.”
The letter also mentioned that terminally ill patients will be viewed as expendable if assisted suicide becomes acceptable, and that the basic dignity of the human person will be undermined, which in turn will undermine end-of-life palliative care and depression treatment for the terminally ill.
Krason also said that acceptance of the “right to die” will undoubtedly break the boundaries of just the terminally ill, eventually spreading to other groups of individuals. “It inevitably will spread to more and more categories of people, including those who aren’t even seriously ill and children with serious illnesses and birth defects, as the European experience is making clear,” Krason wrote.
“Instead of pediatric and neonatal specialists working to save handicapped newborns, they will be increasingly looked to for the purpose of ending their lives.” Krason also said that the “right-to-die” will quickly turn into the “duty-to-die,” placing unneeded pressure on the elderly and sick to not be a burden on their families.
“Indeed, there is evidence that the elderly are becoming increasingly fearful that medical authorities might think of them as undeserving of care, even if they wish to have it, so they should just be allowed die,” Krason wrote, pointing to the example of the elderly woman who tattooed “don’t euthanize me” on her arm.
The letter also highlighted the “multitude of legal issues will result from it that will cause potentially serious problems for the medical profession.” Krason urged the American Medical Association to consider these costly implications of the “right to die,” saying that it will only lead to “a further erosion of respect for innocent human life.”
“As social scientists, we are very well aware of where societal trends are going and the likely consequences of them, and allowing physician-assisted suicide will have calamitous effects for vulnerable populations, for the medical and healing professions generally, and for American life and society in general,” Krason wrote. “We strongly urge your organization to continue its official opposition to physician-assisted suicide.”